Love Mixology

Have you ever wondered about love – what causes it? How is it made? What is it’s make-up? And, ultimately what is the recipe for success in love?

Well, these are all interesting questions answered within this Psychology Today article by Kristine Keller, M.A. In the article, Kristine shares some great information about love research.  In particular, the work of Robert Sternberg, one of the leading theorists and researchers on love. 

From his work, Sternberg suggests a triangular theoryof love –  three components which form a triangle and make up the various types of love that we experience.

The first side of the triangle is intimacy, which includes feelings of communication, support, and friendship that characterize warm, loving relationships.

The next is passion, which takes the form of physical feelings of desire– essentially the heat and intensity typical of the beginning stages of a relationship.

The final component, commitment,  is marked by the decision to remain devoted to one’s partner and to work through any problems that may arise; this part of the triangle is what allows a relationship to sustain itself even during fluctuations of passion and intimacy.

Of course, no experience is the same for any couple, so we say that that the triangle comes in various shapes and sizes with each of the three components varying in intensity during stages of a relationship. Psychologists have characterized all kinds of different experiences– from “empty love,” when a couple is high in commitment, but lacks any intimacy and passion, to “infatuation,” when the passion is pumping but in the absence of any intimacy or commitment.

Sternberg shares that love is a multifaceted experience and usually the three sides of the triangle work in tandem to form more complex experiences. Typically a couple that experiences high intimacy and passion is on the road to “romantic love.” If this stage of love feels like a high to you, that’s because it is. This honeymoon stage of a relationship is marked by feelings of intense euphoria and the release of our reward-activation neurotransmitters, like dopamine. If you have ever found yourself in a trance-like state whereby your person of interest is the only thing on your mind and you engage in 20-minute conversations with friends, but haven’t heard a word they’ve said, there is scientific evidence to support that you are experiencing a normal stage of love.

This passionate stage of a relationship is the one in which Western societies place a huge emphasis, so much so, that people refuse to marry without it. In fact, in Western societies some only marry with this ONE component present. However, coupled with commitment, it is the component of the triangle that, if we are lucky, lasts in some form. Usually after around six to twenty-four months though, the feelings of intense euphoria dissipate to a normal degree, which is actually beneficial for both your productivity and sanity.

So, what do you think of the theory? Think about your past relationships…have any one part of the triangle dominated the others? How can you bring your next relationship into more triangular balance?

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Categories: Ideas


I'm a married publicist who holds a Master's degree in psychology, with a concentration in Marriage and Family Therapy. I'd like to make the world a better relationship at a time.

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6 Comments on “Love Mixology”

  1. December 22, 2011 at 2:14 pm #

    This actually makes sense. I know that honeymoon stage is what we lose sight of the other two sides. But this seems to be the strongest when we find as part of “knowing if your in love” and marry. But the fine balance of all three is what really spells out a lasting relationship.

    Would love to reblog this!

  2. Liza Vassallo
    December 22, 2011 at 4:01 pm #

    I enjoy the simple and profound layout and the imagery of a triangle. If it were really that simple 🙂 From experience, it really comes down to timing of both parties and willingness to be visible, open and willing. Some see love as a way to justify their existence and have an image to the world to put forth…others get into love because they just don’t want to be alone while others have so many options why settle? it really comes down to attitude and tolerance really – there’s no magic formula.

  3. December 22, 2011 at 9:01 pm #

    In mine it’s always been an intense ride in the beginning…but later they seem to lack commitment, and the inability to reach a certain level of intimacy/communication beyond the physical. I’ve learned alot in the past year… and really hope next time it will be different. (keep writing the great articles)

  4. December 22, 2011 at 10:47 pm #

    Reblogged this on Single in San Antonio.

  5. Stephanie @ Kick-Ass Wife
    December 23, 2011 at 2:26 am #

    Oops… Hit the wrong button!!
    As I was saying, we had a few months dating and then went long distance so that pushed us into the commitment phase pretty quick. I think it was a good thing and since we have been married for 3 years now life is much more balanced.

  6. January 1, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

    I have to agree with Cakes McCain…all the components of hot passion is right there in the beginning, however, once I start coming down from cloud 9 I realize that both commitment and intimacy are lacking. For my next relationship (if I ever get there) I plan on going through the dating stages and insuring that intimacy and commitment has a place to stay before added in the intense passion.

    Happy New Year!!!!!

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